Democrat Senator Joe Manchin Accuses His Own Party Of Playing Politics With Voting Rights

Written by Carmine Sabia

OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion




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West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has been a thorn in the side of his own Democrat Party as they have been begging him tog et rid of the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.

In an op-ed on Sunday for The Charleston Gazette-Mail the senator not only aid that he will not vote to end the filibuster, but he accused his own party of playing partisan politics with voting rights and said that he will not be voting in favor of the For The People Act.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics. Least of all, protecting this right, which is a value I share, should never be done in a partisan manner,” the senator said.

Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. Today’s debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage. Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it.

As such, congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.

Democrats in Congress have proposed a sweeping election reform bill called the For the People Act. This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support. Why? Are the very Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump because of actions that led to an attack on our democracy unwilling to support actions to strengthen our democracy? Are these same senators, whom many in my party applauded for their courage, now threats to the very democracy we seek to protect?

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The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen.

With that in mind, some Democrats have again proposed eliminating the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass the For the People Act with only Democratic support. They’ve attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past.

Manchin reminded them that when President Donald Trump urged Republicans to get rid of the filibuster to get some of his legislation passed it was the Democrats that argued to keep it.

And while some Democrats have gone on to say that the filibuster is a relic of racist Jim Crow laws, including former President Obama, it was Senator Obama who argued to keep it.

“Because you’ve all heard it yourselves, I know it won’t surprise many of you to learn that a lot of people don’t think much gets done around here about the issues they care most about. They think the atmosphere has become too partisan, the arguments have become too nasty, and the political agendas have become too petty,” he said in 2005.

“And while I haven’t been here too long, I’ve noticed that partisan debate is sharp, and dissent is not always well-received. Honest differences of opinion and principled compromise often seem to be the victim of a determination to score points against one’s opponents.

“But the American people sent us here to be their voice. They understand that those voices can at times become loud and argumentative, but they also hope that we can disagree without being disagreeable. And at the end of the day, they expect both parties to work together to get the people’s business done.

“What they don’t expect is for one party – be it Republican or Democrat – to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet. The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster – if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate – then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse,” he said.

“I understand that Republicans are getting a lot of pressure to do this from factions outside the chamber. But we need to rise above an “ends justify the means” mentality because we’re here to answer to the people – all of the people – not just the ones wearing our party label,” the former president said.

He ended by saying he urged “my Republican colleagues not to go through with changing these rules. In the long run, this is not a good result for either party. One day Democrats will be in the majority again, and this rule change will be no fairer to a Republican minority than it is to a Democratic minority.”